Michelle Garrett is a public relations consultant, writer, and public speaker who works with B2B brands helping them secure media coverage and create engaging content. She also hosts #FreelanceChat weekly on Twitter – if you’re a freelancer looking for support, we highly recommend checking it out!
Freelancing Through a Recession
Talk to us about your experience working through past recessions. How did your business shift during those times?
Let’s see, I worked through recessions in 2007-09 and then the brief one in 2020. The recession in 2007-09 nearly put my business under. I wasn’t well-positioned or prepared for it – and it lasted a LONG time. I was also returning from maternity leave after having my daughter, which probably compounded the issue. I had to take work that I normally wouldn’t in order to start rebuilding my consulting business. It was a situation I vowed I’d do my best to never find myself in again.
The recession in 2020 was less severe. I was in a much better position and didn’t see a decline in work during that time. If anything, there was MORE demand because businesses knew they had to focus on communicating online as everything was closed – and everyone was at home, looking at social media and spending time online.
Are there any resources you can share that have helped you plan and prepare for a recession?
This may sound simple, but paying attention to the news is important when you’re running a freelance business. Look for a source you trust (maybe that’s NPR, for example) and follow the economic stories so you’re not caught unaware if a recession is on the horizon.
Also, if you can talk with a financial planner, that person may be able to help you determine how much money you should put in savings or other accounts. I finally hired a financial planner and it really helped me find peace of mind as far as how to distribute funds so that I’d be covered in the event I needed to fall back on my rainy day fund.
How do you manage the stress that comes along with economic downturns?
It’s gotten easier over the years. I think you get used to it, to a degree.
I do believe in having a financial cushion – so I try to work as much as I can during times of economic growth, just in case my business takes a turn when the economy is more volatile.
Having that savings – just in case – helps lessen the stress.
Also, understanding that the economy is cyclical helps. A recession is always coming…they’re cyclical. It may be years away or months away – but the economy goes through its ups and downs.
In what ways do you lean on your community for support during these times?
I think freelancers are lucky when they have each other to support them. It’s great if you can let your community know that you’re in need of referrals – or maybe you just need someone to talk to or to reassure you that whatever is happening currently, won’t last. Things always change, so if your situation isn’t the best right now, your community can help remind you that brighter days are ahead.
What advice do you have for freelancers who want to properly prepare for a recession?
Make hay while the sun shines, as the old saying goes. Work – and save money – when you can.
And NEVER stop networking – by that I mean meeting and talking to people. The more people you know who know what you do – and feel good about potentially referring work your way – the better. Even when you’re busy with client work, you shouldn’t neglect your marketing and networking activities.